Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tribal Associations in Universities: End of an era?

Ethnic diversity is a resource that has been mismanaged in the past and must be resolved now to enable greater cohesion in the country.
Back in 2009 in first year of campus, we covered a topic on ethnicity in Political Science. At the time, I had done writings on tribalism and I had already started this blog. So doing the unit in class broadened my understanding on the same. Throughout the lesson, I kept remembering the flyers and posters stuck in our hostel and the tunnels asking members of a particular community to meet at various venues to "discuss the way forward for their people". There it was, tribal alliances that many times say they are to safeguard the interests of students from a particular region but come elections time the 'subtle' community organizations are at the forefront to prop one of their own for leadership position whether qualified or not.
I was burning with questions, why does the University allow it? What can the University authorities do to stop this trend of tribal alliances? So I summed up courage and asked my lecturer that. So here I was in a class of about 5oo students asking what can be done to break the 'status-quo', what was the way of doing business. My lecturer, Prof. Nying'uro looked at me, then looked at the entire class which was now quiet waiting to what he would tell me. He moved closer to my desk and instead asked me " Madam, what the university can do for you is not important...what is important is what you, as a student, a scholar do for this university...what can you do?"
The ball was kicked back to my court; I was challenged to do something. The class dispersed soon afterwards but Professors words stung me. I had to do something. I remember that day as I walked through the tunnels I went pulling down anything that was tribal inclined. All the posters that called for the Butere comrades to meet at hall 3 or those for the Narok students association came down into the dustbins. I know, that is a drop in the ocean but I had to start somewhere. Next thing I did was mobilizing  a few friends, my room-mates to join in not only removing the posters but to talk to fellow classmates, friends within our campus and other campuses about coexistence with other communities. Slowly, we planted a seed, we watered it and in as much as it grew, there were thorns and harsh environments which choked it. I faced opposition from some goons who told me I was doing useless work. So maybe I was, but I had stirred something, I had started discussions on tribalism in campus in a small way.
Next thing I did was to post anonymous notices, which signed off as I am not my Tribe. They spoke of integration, importance of each member of the various communities in a creative, sensitive and not forceful way. They were not calling anyone to meet up in room 310 for discussion on the way forward; the three paragraph notes challenged my fellow comrades. They would be plucked from the notice boards (tit for tat) and I moved to Phase 3 of my campaign, wearing the talk, literary.
Sample of the T-Shirts we made
So, we got a fellow student, Elvis, who we contracted to design T-Shirts with our message. A week later a batch of ten I am not my Tribe branded T-Shirts in different colors was delivered. On a set date, a Friday, we all donned our T-Shirts and went to class; good thing is half of us were from different campuses. So our campaign went a notch higher, guys were asking where we got the shirts/ idea from. We were practically walking banners with our message. One of us in the T-Shirt was stopped in town by several people asking about the 'movement'.
Flash forward to 2012, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has now put a check on these tribal associations in Universities.
“The education of young people should deliberately inculcate positive values on ethnic and race relations as opinions they form will often be those they will carry with them throughout their lives,” the policy against tribalism says on tribal associations in institutions of learning.  
“Education should lead to enlightenment, understanding and tolerance of the people of all ethnic groups and races,” it adds, noting that the institutions have been targeted for the role they play in national cohesion.
NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia, said this was not only critical during this election year, but equally important since the country was switching from a central government to a devolved government structure. 
“The climate of tension has been accentuated by the International Criminal Court confirmation of charges,” Dr Kibunjia said.
“There is therefore an urgent need to pro-actively start continuous conversation on ethnic, racial and religious grievances and their possible resolution with the political and economic elite across the country,” he said.
As my post topic asks, could this be an end of an era?
*I am not my Tribe philosophy is still on course, just like a river during the dry season, it may not be visible on the surface but it still continues to meander and flow underground, its absence does not mean it’s not there, it continues to flow!

Friday, March 9, 2012

KONY 2012

The common perception of the rebel group is that they are a ‘messianic cult.’ But far more likely is that they are now just fighting for survival and so that Kony can maintain his power.
Mid this week the internet was bursting with talks and discussions on a video called KONY 2012.  The film and campaign by Invisible Children aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest because of his atrocities against humanity, children for that matter. The campaing also seeks to set a precedent for International Justice.

What is worrying me is that, Kony's activities are just across the border, in Uganda. Kony is a neighbor, a husband and a father perhaps but the injustices he commits are beyond me. This intrigues me to know about this man, his background, his activities. Why should we be wary of his activities in East and Central Africa? Why should we stop the man? Why should we be part of the 'movement' against him? Why?

To begin with, Joseph Kony was born in Atyak, Uganda some 48 years ago. The warlord and leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) who has staged war half his life was ironically a catholic altar boy who is now a cult leader of his movement. His cult aims at installing a government in Uganda based on the Biblical 10 Commandments, a theocratic state. Kony's LRA has kidnapped an estimated 20,000 children for use as fighters or sex slaves. The more reasons why Kony should be apprehended. 

Sadly, as part of their initiation, these children are often required to kill their own parents, so they'll have no homes to return to. (It's not clear which of the Ten Commandments Kony's strategy is based on.) Once kidnapped, children are used as pack mules, carrying LRA supplies until they are too weak to walk, at which time they're killed or simply left to die. Kidnapped boys also serve as targets and decoys, sent to the front lines, unarmed, whenever the Ugandan Army engages the LRA. Kidnapped girls either become wives for some of the senior member of LRA while others become sex slaves and at times even both. Troublesome captives have their noses, lips, and/or ears cut off, and are then made to eat their own flesh.

Over the years, his activities have crossed the Uganda's borders as his rebels now terrorize large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic raising the question whether his initial objective of Institutionalizing the ten commandments in Uganda is what he hopes to achieve in the new regions. Kony is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Interestingly, he was to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government in 2008, but peace talks fell apart as he wanted assurances that he would not be prosecuted.

The LRA's aims were heavily influence by the Holy Spirit Movement; a 1980s group that represented the Acholi people of northern Uganda. The movement was formed by Alice Lakwena, a former prostitute who was believed to be Mr. Kony's cousin. They felt excluded from power after northern leader Milton Obote was overthrown in a military rebellion, and eventually replaced by current President Yoweri Museveni in 1986.Like the Maji Maji Rebellion(1905-1907), Ms Lakwena promised her followers immunity from the bullets of the Ugandan army, but Mr. Museveni troops defeated her movement in 1988 and she fled to Kenya. After this defeat, Mr. Kony founded his own rebel group which over the next 20 years has gone on to abduct thousands of children to become fighters or sex slaves. Mr Kony himself is thought to have at least 60 wives, as he and his senior commanders take the pick of the girls they capture. 

He has created an aura of fear and mysticism around himself and his rebels follow strict rules and rituals. Furthermore, he says he gets strategic advice from angels. There are eight of these angels, he says -- three American, two Sudanese, two Chinese, and one Congolese.
"When you go to fight you make the sign of the cross first. If you fail to do this, you will be killed," one young fighter who escaped from the LRA told US-based Human Rights Watch.
"You must also take oil and draw a cross on your chest, your forehead, and each shoulder and you must make a cross in oil on your gun. They say that the oil is the power of the Holy Spirit."
Mr Kony appears to believe that his role is to cleanse the Acholi people. He uses biblical references to explain why it is necessary to kill his own people, since they have, in his view, failed to support his cause.
"If the Acholi don't support us, they must be finished," one abductee said in a past interview. 
In 2008, Kony during an interview was surrounded by some of what was estimated were his 3,000 heavily armed fighters, and insisted he was not the monster he was portrayed to be.
"Let me tell you clearly what happened in Uganda. Museveni went into the villages and cut off the ears of the people, telling the people that it was the work of the LRA. I cannot cut the ear of my brother; I cannot kill the eye of my brother."
The LRA later went on a major offensive, carrying out a massacre on Christmas Day 2008. On that day and over the following three weeks, the LRA beat to death more than 800 people in north-eastern DR Congo and South Sudan, and abducted hundreds more.
 Clearly, Kony must be stopped as soon as possible as:
  • He leads a violent cult of abducted fighters also the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
  • He abducts children from their homes who force them to be soldiers and sex slaves, to murder and mutilate their neighbors.
  • In 2005 he became the first man indicted by the ICC.
  • So far 30,000+ children have been abducted.
  • Mastermind behind the 26+ years of violence in various parts of East and Central Africa.
  • 440,000 people currently displaced across 3 countries
The Invisible Children campaign advocates for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried for his crimes in an international court. Kony’s capture would not only end his ongoing atrocities, but it would also set a strong precedent for the future of International Criminal Justice. However, if Kony is killed during the ongoing operation according to the campaign, it would still be a victory for the hundreds of thousands of innocent people living in fear. That said, it would not necessarily result in the immediate end of the LRA. Once Joseph Kony and his top commanders are removed from the battlefield, and the LRA is completely disarmed, reuniting families and rehabilitation will be the first priority.

Invisible Children has constructed the first and only child rehabilitation center in the LRA affected region in DR Congo. The center is currently treating the most traumatized children. Again I ask why should we be wary of Kony's activities in East and Central Africa? Uganda is a stone throw away from Kenya, what happens there has a domino effect on us. We need to be on the lookout for Kony and his activities. What we can do is to spread the word around, get more support for the arrest on Joseph Kony. We can stop Kony by advocating against these atrocities through our various abilities and platform. It takes a small deed to achieve a great one...It takes you, your voice, your message, your assistance in protecting and safeguarding our children, younger brothers and sisters. I have started my walk towards 'stopping' KONY....when will yours begin?

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. "
Mother Teresa.

On the other hand, we have Kony's in our midst, those who rape our finances, steal from our development kitty and then go ahead and hold us hostage after a re-election and five years later bribe us to vote them in. Well, that’s a discussion for another article.
My Kenyan Thoughts. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Safeguarding Rights: Empowering Youths

As part of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) coalition’s essay competition ('Why is the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa important to you?'), Eunice Kilonzo discusses the strengths and limitations of the protocol.

The Protocol on the rights of women in Africa is important to me due to two major reasons, and probably even three, that it safeguards. First, I am an African, a woman and thirdly a youth. As an African young woman as well as other youths, we are a special resource that requires special attention not only because of the demographic bonus but also of the inert energy that we possess. We are a formidable creative resource that can be harnessed for Africa’s socioeconomic development. The Protocol is important to me as when the African heads of state will be convening in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea they will be discuss about me, about my fellow youths and about our empowerment. The theme of the summit is ‘Youth empowerment for sustainable development’.
In order to achieve the positive outcomes in the areas of education, employment, health and citizenship, to fight poverty among the youth, a holistic approach to youth development has become an urgent matter that should be focused on. The African Youth Charter and its rapid entry into force, the celebration of the Year of African Youth in 2008 and the annual celebration of the African Youth Day every 1st November, the declaration of a Decade (2009-2018) for Youth development, and its approved 10 year-plan of action, are convincing evidences that confirm the continental impetus to the African youth development.
Over time, the youths have been reminded that they are the leaders of tomorrow. However the proverbial tomorrow never comes. As a youth I believe our/my tomorrow has come, our tomorrow in now. Thus by understanding and knowing what the Protocol entails then we will be taking the first steps towards understanding how to achieve sustainable development. Statistically, about 62% of Africa’s overall population fall below the age of 35 and more than 35% are between 15 and 35 years old. Six thousand (6,000) young people are infected with HIV/AIDS everyday all over the world; most of them girls in Sub-Saharan Africa.
On 26 October 2005, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa received its 15th ratification, meaning the Protocol entered into force on 25 November 2005. This date was also significant as it also coincided with the start of the international 16 days of activism on ending violence against women. This marked a milestone in the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Africa, creating new rights for women in terms of international standards.
The Protocol is very crucial for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. For instance in its first Article it calls for equality for all by eliminating discrimination against women. The Protocol urges States Parties to commit themselves to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of women and men through public education, information, education and communication strategies, with a view to achieving the elimination of harmful cultural and traditional practices and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or on stereotyped roles for women and men. This Protocol in my opinion is the architecture essential for change. This in a nutshell means that it advocates for the changing of negative power relations, gender inequality and the disempowerment and impoverishment of women in Africa.
In addition, the Protocol in Article 5 calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation. It also asks for the provision of necessary support to victims of harmful practices through health services, legal and judicial support, emotional and psychological counselling as well as vocational training to make them self-supporting. The Protocol further prohibits the abuse of women through all other forms of harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women and which are contrary to recognized international standards.  Thus it sets forth a broad range the social welfare rights for women. The rights of particularly vulnerable groups of women, including widows, elderly women, disabled women and “women in distress,” which includes poor women, women from marginalized populations groups, and pregnant or nursing women in detention are specifically recognized. This Article thus protects me and other women from any harmful practices.
Article 6 of the Protocol states that: women and men enjoy equal rights and are regarded as equal partners in marriage. This particular Article is important to me because it clearly spells out that no marriage shall take place without the free and full consent of both parties; thus forced marriages will be a thing for the past especially in some communities in my country. Another great provision is that the minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years; thus child brides are no more. Another clause of interest to me is that upon marriage, I shall have the right to maintain my maiden name jointly or separately with my husband's surname. Thus I will not have to go through a long process of paper work to register a new acquired name. In addition, during the marriage, I shall have the right to acquire my own property and to administer and manage it freely.

Article 11 deals with the Protection of Women in Armed Conflicts. It calls for States Parties undertake to respect and ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict situations, which affect the population, particularly women. A third clause of the Articles denotes that States Parties undertake to protect asylum seeking women, refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, against all forms of violence, rape and other forms of sexual exploitation, and to ensure that such acts are considered war crimes, genocide and/or crimes against humanity and that their perpetrators are brought to justice before a competent criminal jurisdiction. Also the States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure that no child, especially girls under 18 years of age, take a direct part in hostilities and that no child is recruited as a soldier.

The Protocol endorses in Article 12 that the States Parties shall take specific positive action to promote literacy among women, promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology. They will also promote the enrolment and retention of girls in schools and other training institutions and the organization of programmes for women who leave school prematurely. This coupled with affirmative action promotes the equal participation of women, including equal representation of women in elected office, and calls for the equal representation of women in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. Articulating a right to peace, the Protocol recognizes the right of women to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace. This addresses the problem of negative power relations, as few if any women would be allowed let alone be able to hold any office. Interestingly, the recently passed Kenya constitution ensures that more women take up leadership positions. For instance, Ms. Nancy Barasa has been nominated for the position of Deputy Chief Justice among many other women who are at the helm of authority in my country.

This encourages me, a young woman to aspire for an office in any field without fear of being barred by the virtue of being female. In line with Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the non-discrimination clause, which provides that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the charter will be enjoyed by all irrespective of their sex; Article 3, states that every individual will be equal before the law and be entitled to the equal protection of the law. Other Articles of importance to the woman folk include Article 18(3), which is specifically about the protection of the family and promises to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women and protect their rights.
Youth action is critical to the continents development. The Protocol further ensures that girls and women can make equally valued contributions to development especially in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For instance, the Protocol in Article 14 explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. This comes in light of the many illegal abortions; pregnancy and childbirth that cause the deaths of at least 250,000 women each year in Africa. This means that Africa and the world at large lose a great number of its natural resource. It reminds me of the recent shocking findings in Congo. Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been raped at a rate 26 times higher than previously thought. The shockingly high number is equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day, 48 raped every hour, or four women raped every five minutes. The rape itself is traumatizing enough not to mention the child conceived from the heinous act. As innocent as the baby is, it will always be a constant reminder to the woman of an event she would rather forget; not to mention other difficulties compounded as a result of the assault. This goes further to show that sexual violence in the DRC is not only a grievous mass violation of human rights but is a security threat to the entire nation.
The Protocol states that women’s sexual and reproductive health is to be both respected and promoted, which is predicated on women’s right to control their fertility and by the obligation of states to provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services. It also demands that governments establish and strengthen existing pre-natal, delivery and post-natal services for all African women. The Protocol enforces the right to self-protection, and to be informed of one’s health status and that of one’s partner. It also provides for health services to cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS.

As a youth, I feel there is a lack of connection in my country between the ministries of justice, finance, of foreign affairs and the ministries of gender/women. This will mean that even with the Protocol in place, the lack of cohesion will lead to gaps in implementation and monitoring and in turn the success of a good cause geared at development of the continent obsolete. The Protocol addresses this concern by elaborating that the States that are signatory to this Protocol are expected to implement and monitor the actualization of the rights provided in the Protocol and, in particular, provide budgetary and other resources for the full and effective implementation of the rights recognized in the Protocol. They are also expected to report on progress in their periodic reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. I share the sentiments of Ugandan activist Sarah Mukasa who noted, there is often a “disconnection between the pronouncements made at regional level and the action taken nationally and locally…domestication and implementation is riddled with challenges that will have to be overcome if the Protocol is to benefit the women it seeks to protect”. She goes on to identify three major obstacles in most countries namely; weak public appreciation of the centrality of constitutionalism and the rule of law, inadequately resourced national gender machinery and lastly, the precedence of entering reservations on progressive clauses.
In conclusion, I know that the Protocol on the rights of Women in Africa is important to me as it safeguards my welfare holistically as well as that of the future generation of women. It is upon me as a youth to be willing and ready to use my potential for the development of mother Africa. I believe an empowered youth is an agent of change. We are critical for the continents development, it is our responsibility. I want to be empowered and bring the change Africa needs. This is a luta continua. Nkozi Africa!!

Youth Enterprise Development Fund: What the Youths (don’t) know

By Eunice Kilonzo

Since its launch by President Mwai Kibaki in 2007, the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) is yet to fully achieve its objectives. The fund was established to address the problem of youth unemployment. This would be achieved through investment opportunities in micro, small and medium enterprises which will be beneficial to youth empowerment and development. The fund which seeks to support youth growth is stalled by a number of reasons. According to Fred Kasina, the Economic Development Manager at the partnership for a HIV Free Generation, Kenya; few youths actually know about the fund. He was speaking at a recent youth training:
“Very few youths know and actually applied for the Youth Loan…there is a lot of money to start up businesses, youths fear loans”
Sharing his sentiments is Bernadette Mungai, who is the chief Manager at Kenya Institute of Management who says
“We have had several trainings to sensitize the youths about the economic opportunities available yet there is a low turnout when it comes to youths actually getting the loans”
To begin with most youths think that the money given by the Youth Fund is a grant and not a loan. This misconception is contributed by youth’s belief that the government promised to avail 500,000 jobs annually and this Youth Fund is put in place to achieve this aim.
 Edwin Shomba a student at a local university when interviewed says
“I think it’s something like a grant you get from the government without having to repay it. I actually do not know where to go for assistance on the Youth fund”
Edwin like many other youths lack information about YEDF, its requirements as well as the necessary project/ business management skills.
 An employee of the YEDF said that the institution offers loans to either individuals or a group. She said
“For a group to be funded, it needs to have a minimum of 10 members. The group presents its business proposal to the institution which is given a start-up boost of Kshs 50,000 at an interest rate of 5% payable within 12 months. Prior to the money being issued, the group goes through training on business management, book keeping as well as accounts management skills”
On the other hand if there are less than ten youths who have a business plan, say five, they can still apply for the Youth Fund. This can be achieved through a different Loan plan.
“An individual or a group of five youth should have been in business for at least three months prior the loan application. Depending on the business they can get their desired capital at a rate of 8% payable within 14 months provided they have their company’s registration certificate and other supporting documents. Both the individual as well as the group loan, there is a two month grace period after the expected repayment provided there is earlier notification to YEDF”.
Interestingly, one youth-James Waigwa, a third year student is still wary about taking the loan.
“I heard about YEDF a year ago, during the world cup period and I even attended a conference in KICC about the fund. However, am still in school and I can only run and maintain a business when on vacation, which rarely last three months. I had begun a video place where guys would come to watch the world cup matches but I could not sustain the business. I feared to take a loan from the Youth Fund for I did not know much about it, its interest rates and implications of defaulting payment, I am still not aware”
Edwin and James are among many other youths despite having great business ideas are yet to approach YEDF for economic empowerment. Most recently youths from Kilifi refused to acquire the loans for fear that the loans are politically motivated. In that one is given a loan in exchange for their votes in the upcoming general elections. YEDF however is on an awareness program to sensitize youths about the Youth Fund as well as dispelling myths on the same.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vision 2030: Dream or Reality

Of the year 2015, Kenya and the MDGs: Can we hack this?
Kenya can achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but sadly not by 2015. I know I sound like a prophet of doom but Kenya as well as most African countries have a long way to go before this achievement is realized. In essence, the target of 100 percent completion in primary school can be achieved with some additional resources targeted to the primary sector. However, a substantial increase of resources is needed at secondary and tertiary level of education to reach other goals set by the Kenyan government. Even if higher investment in all MDG sectors is needed the water sector seems to be requiring a substantial increase compared to what have been invested in the past. In 2012, Kenya is emerging from one of the worst financial crises, facing the harsh consequences of multiple natural disasters such as famine and floods, and grappling with how to secure its borders from the Al-Shabaab menace.
MDGs serve as a foundation for countries to the anchor their development strategies on. However, there appears to be a gap on what was expected to be achieved by 2015 and what has been achieved so far. Subsequently, the masses of Kenyan people remain poor despite the MDGs being integrated into Kenya’s Vision 2030.
My first encounter with the word MDGs was back in 2004 while in High school, for some reason I thought it was a government commission of inquiry or even a report on politics. Flash forward to 2009 in campus and during my Political Science class the lecturer would mention MDGs here and there prompting me to not only know them but also understand what it/they were.
The eight Millennium Development Goals were signed by 189 countries during the United Nations Millennium summit in 2000, 12 years ago. These goals are meant to facilitate developments among developing countries with the assistance and support of the developed nations. These eight goals have specific targets, defined deadline set to improve lives of people in the developing countries where unfortunately, the poorest people live in. The eight Goals are inter-linked. Success or failure on any one Goal will affect efforts to achieve all the others. MDGs provide a framework for the international community to work together towards a common end: of collective human development.
With that brief overview of the MDGs, in this essay I will discuss each of the eight goals, how far Kenya has been able to achieve the goals. I will conclude with the overall obstacles encountered, suggestions of averting similar impediments and the way forward. As I was writing this essay, I recalled the remarks by the Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, Wycliffe Oparanya:
Post election violence in 2008, successive droughts, global increases in food and energy costs especially after 2010, are likely to set the MGDs off the track”.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
‘Unless the MDGs are first implemented, then Vision 2030 will be unachievable.’
Jomo Kenyatta envisioned a state where ignorance, disease and poverty would be history. He heralded a path that his successors picked from but the progress has not been smooth. There is a high percentage of Kenyans who live under a dollar a day. The meagre allowance hardly covers daily expenses hence drown in debts and loans. The ongoing inflation is characterized by high costs of products, on the other hand, there are individuals, let me call “elites” whose collective salary is capable of sustaining over a hundred Kenyans under the poverty level for months on end. This sounds like hyperbole but truth is these extremes-poorest and richest- greatly affects Kenya’s achievements of the MDGs.
Vision 2030, a blue print of Kenya’s development, is set on the pillars of the eight Goals. This vision aims at making Kenya a middle income country providing high quality of life for its citizens by the year 2030. It also seeks to make Kenya an industrialized nation through the economic, social and political spheres. Unless MDGs are first implemented, then Vision 2030 will be unachievable. Similarly to a hare challenging the lion to a duel and yet the hyena is on its case. Unless the hare does away with the hyena then the fight with the lion will only be a hazy smoky dream, just that: a dream!
On hunger, the high food prices that we are experiencing give a distressing reminder of the vulnerability of large parts of sub-Saharan Africa to hunger. This puts many Kenyan children susceptible to poor growth, poor development and death as witnessed mid last year in Dadaab. Amusingly, even before these sky rocketing prices, children were either suffering from hunger or under nutrition related complications. The first MDG sets to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger-reflecting that under nutrition is a symptom and a cause of poverty.
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.
‘This cushions children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, especially girls from failing to participate in primary education or dropping out of school due to lack of fees and other school levies.’
Free primary education (FPE) was introduced by H.E. President Mwai Kibaki when he came into power in 2002. It has seen the enrolment rate increase as the years go by from 93% in 2002 to 107.7% in 2007. The aim of FPE programme is to provide more school opportunities, especially for the poor communities this is because; payment of school fees tends to prevent a large proportion of children from attending school. Fees and levies for tuition in primary education under FPE were abolished. The government and development partners meet the cost of basic teaching and learning materials and wages for critical non-teaching staff and co-curricular activities.
However, free primary education has considerable problems. It has exacerbated the problem of teaching and learning facilities as classrooms are congested. The existing facilities make a mockery of the free education programme. Teachers complain of increased pupil teacher ratios. Many primary schools are understaffed. This does not augur well for the quality of education being delivered. Plus the current cost of FPE is way beyond the normal education budget allocation.
Despite the shortcomings, in 2007, Mwai Kibaki, declared that his government would also offer free secondary education come 2008. By doing so, Kenya was moved away from the elementary level provided for by the MDGs to an even more comprehensive and technical level- Free Secondary Education. This was received with skeptic thoughts being dismissed as a campaign strategy to woo votes. However, four years later a large number of students being churned out from the primary school is getting admitted into the high school level.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
‘There is a difference between having a right to property and being able to exercise that right effectively.’
There have been notable changes in institutional arrangements which have been strengthened in the gender sector to promote women’s participation in development through the Ministry of Gender and Children Affairs. In a bid to safeguard women’s rights and uphold gender equality, Kenya has ensured that there is an almost equal representation as well as opportunities for both sexes in all sectors. Almost because the constitution provides that no gender should hold more than two thirds in number of positions/ allocation in a particular department. Kenyan women have faced social, political and cultural obstacles to enjoying their rights. There are cultural norms and practices that show a bias against women owning land or property.  In order to achieve gender equality it is essential to revise and reinforce legal systems to protect women’s rights, adopt and implement rights based education and increase budget allocations on gender affairs.
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality.
‘The World Health Organization says that poverty-related malnutrition is the key factor in over half of all childhood deaths.’
Child mortality refers to the death of infants and children under the age of five. It is caused mainly by poor nutrition, diseases, polluted and contaminated drinking water. Children especially in the pastoralist communities and arid areas suffer from low birth weight due to their mothers’ poor nutrition, and lack access to adequate nutrition themselves.
I will tackle the issue on under/malnutrition in relation to child mortality. Without proper nutrition, children suffer more severe childhood illnesses, stunted growth, developmental delays even death. Malnutrition is preventable through low-cost interventions early in life. Child malnutrition worsens during droughts, economic crises, conflict, displacement and HIV.
The nutrition of the Kenyan children and particularly of those orphaned and infected with the HIV virus desperately needs improving. Failure to do so violates their human rights and in turn undermines development today and in the next generation. In 2009, there were approximately 2.4 million Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) living in Kenya and approximately 600,000 of those in extremely poor households. The number of OVC is on the rise because of HIV/AIDS.
The government has tried by improving the facilities in public health centers and also the accessibility to drugs. The coverage of immunization has also increased to over 80%. About 70% of children under the age of five years are receiving bed nets to protect them against mosquitoes that spread malaria.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health.
‘Improving the availability of trained midwives and emergency obstetric care is not enough to reduce maternal mortality if mothers cannot afford the services.’
Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.
Current estimates of maternal mortality ratios in Kenya are as high as 560 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is worsened by the pervasive poverty and lack of quality health services in slum areas. With a functioning health care system, most maternal deaths are avoidable if complications are identified early. Like many other health indicators, the burden of maternal mortality is heaviest among the poor.
Tim Ensor, a Health Economist, noted that providing adequate access to maternal health care is a test of the entire health system. In addition, lowering prices for essential health commodities such as effective anti-malarial drugs needs to be accompanied by community strategies to improve the knowledge of those purchasing the drugs.
Despite the increase in number of midwives, maternal mortality remains high in Kenya. In addition, there is a strong relationship between wealth and use and access of health care services. Amongst the poorest household, home births are common or services are sought from the ill equipped health centers. Village midwives rely on private income thus may be unwilling to deliver women who cannot pay. This further subjects the expectant woman into a myriad of avoidable consequences such as loss of the baby or even her life.
Safe motherhood although attainable, is a challenge for Kenya. Women die from pregnancy-complications because they do not have access to emergency care services obtainable at the health facility level due to lack of supplies in facilities or the providers lack the necessary skills. Therefore there ought to be intervention to reduce maternal deaths or the likelihood that a complication will result in death.
I think Kenya should try contracting out public services, such as health care, as a way of supplementing and complementing Governments own delivery of services. This will be thriving particularly in hard to reach populations thus served effectively by private groups. Contracting out allows government to use public resources for services provided by non-government organizations who have the ability to deliver an agreed set of health care services. Advantages? Yes. Several actually, one there will be increased efficiency due to competition of the various contracted entities as well as measurable performances. NGOs are flexible than governments because they respond faster to changing circumstances and have a more decentralized decision making system. In conclusion, contracting out has resulted in better provider performance, lower costs, shorter waiting times and higher patient satisfaction.
While contracting can work it is not a panacea. The contract must be precise and specific with expected results; there should be clear criteria to assess performance, a defined process to monitor progress as well as modification of a contract in response to problems. Lastly, there should be appropriate monitoring and evaluation of the contract.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
‘Every 45 seconds, a child dies of malaria despite malaria being preventable and treatable.’
Currently, millions of Kenya’s do not have access to basic, good quality health services. The Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 defined primary health care as a basic health care which is universally accessible and affordable to all individuals. It was argued as being too idealistic rather than realistic and thus difficult to achieve. Sadly, Kenya unlike other developed countries might have stalled at this point. This is because, in a country where the declaration hoped to control infectious diseases, Kenyan’s succumb to diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria and many other preventable diseases. Add HIV/AIDS into the mix and it is a conundrum. 64% of Kenya’s 40 million populations are youths and new HIV infections are amongst the 64%. The prevalence data suggests that the females are most hit with a prevalence of 6.7% compared to 3.5% among males. The estimates further show that prevalence is higher in the urban areas (8.3%) than in the rural areas (4.0%). This is alarming because the youths being the future population/leaders may not be healthy enough to support and be part of Kenya’s development as well as achieving the MDGs and consequently the Vision 2030, provided that the health care system is not given a new lease of life.
The World Health Organization recognized the importance of a functioning health system. Kenya should take the challenge and better its health system at least before 2015 in preparation for 2030. One is most likely to walk into a church by merely walking out of your house, yet you are more likely to die from an illness before you reach the nearest hospital. What am I saying with this? Health centres and equipped hospitals should be accessible and available. The 2002 Commission on Macroeconomics and Health advocated the use of a ‘close-to-client’ system, including outreach services, health centres and local hospitals to be accessible to poor people.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.
‘Climate change has been another factor complicating the situation in Kenya and thus stakeholders should come together to understand the reasons behind such changes and what to do.’
Africa’s environment is closely linked with its climate. It is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change- subject to frequent droughts, floods and famine. The livelihoods of most Africans are largely dependent on utilisation of land-based resources. As a result of this dependency and widespread poverty, the Kenyan communities are vulnerable to the effects and impacts of climate change. In contrast the government has no established social security systems to mitigate citizens against these climate-induced risks. Specific impacts include desertification, sea level rise, reduced freshwater availability, cyclones, coastal erosion, deforestation, loss of forests, woodland degradation, coral bleaching, spread of malaria and other diseases and impacts on food security.
If Kenya is to sustain its environment, there is need for individual and collective effort. The late Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathaai was a warrior for the environment even in her death. Government should have a plan for realistic climate conservation strategies and ultimate mitigation of the climate degradation factors.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development.
“If we form strong global partnerships, if we support what works, if we back people of vision and action-we can meet the MDGs”
This goal recognizes that eradicating poverty worldwide can be achieved only through a global partnership for development. This global deal makes clear that it is the primary responsibility of poor countries to ensure greater accountability to citizens and efficient use of resources. For poor countries to achieve the first seven goals, it is absolutely critical that wealthier countries deliver on their end of the bargain–more and more effective aid, more sustainable debt relief and fairer trade rules–well in advance of 2015.
What is curtailing Kenya’s efforts in achieving the MDGs?  
Clearly, Kenya is trying to achieve the MDGs before they ‘expire’. However, there are factors that slow down her efforts. They include corruption, poor coordination of planning and implementation of the strategies, lack of commitment by top management and staff compounded by inadequate resources both in terms of financial and human capacity. Other factors include Political interference and instability as evidenced in the post election violence of 2007/08 contributed to stalling and stagnation of the progress of MDGs attainment and lack of resources both in terms of financial and human capacity as well as lack of monitoring and evaluating culture. Inadequate infrastructure in the newly created districts is another major hindrance. Drought, a climate problem, is also making it hard for Kenya to achieve any of the 8 goals. This is because with every drought or calamity, Kenya is pushed to the start button with the hope to salvage what was earlier gained. Marcus Prior, spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme’s in Kenya, says:
What we are seeing in Northern Kenya, and in other parts of the Horn of Africa, is that drought years are coming more and more frequently, often successively, making life increasingly difficult in a region where there is little development.”
How do we overcome the Challenges then?
When I saw this part of the essay question I asked myself: How can I, Eunice Kilonzo, in my capacity as a young Kenyan student be part of the solution? What can I do? It begins with me, the change I want to see in the world and until I have, I cannot point accusatory fingers to the government. As a youth I have taken the responsibility of one, being on the forefront in being part of organizations and alliances aimed at alleviating hunger amongst my fellow citizens through food donations and long term food security projects. I also sensitize people on their rights, on child and maternal mortality, diseases as well as education through my writings, speeches and discussions. I hope to be involved with more youths who do the same not only in Kenya but globally to be able to learn and forge a way towards 2015 and beyond. I also think on a higher level than myself, Kenya need to have credible macroeconomic policies and effective social safety nets to protect and cushion vulnerable populations. I concur with Steven Radelet, in his book: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way demonstrates that experiences of sub-Saharan African countries have been diverse and that many countries in the region have experienced steady economic growth, improved governance, and decreased poverty since the mid-1990s. He credits this to more democratic and accountable governments, more sensible economic policies, the end of the debt crisis and major changes in relationships with the international community, new technologies that are creating new opportunities for business and political accountability, and finally a new generation of policymakers, activists, and business leaders.
As I stated in the beginning, Kenya will achieve the MDGs but not necessarily by 2015. For instance, since 2000, many gains have been made: the number of people living in extreme poverty in the developing world such as Kenya has shrunk from half of the population to a quarter; Enrolment in primary education has increased to 107% and the deaths of children under five is declining. The most important question to bear in mind is this: how have people’s real lives been affected by our efforts to achieve the Goals?
We are three-quarter of the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals - in terms of time, not by way of meeting the target. As noted, women’s empowerment and gender equality are drivers for reducing poverty, building food security, reducing maternal mortality, safeguarding the environment, and enhancing the effectiveness of aid. In conclusion, I think we should also think of the options after 2015, that is, after the current deadline for the fulfilment of the MDGs. What is your take?